Burrard Bridge upgrade details revealed at Open House. Second event planned for June 16th

Burrard Bridge Open House The City of Vancouver held its first public Open House on the proposed upgrades to the Burrard Bridge on June 6th, 2015.

The upgrades to the Burrard Bridge and to the Pacific/Burrard intersection come with a proposed price tag of $30 million. Here’s an approximate breakdown of the budget:

  • $6 million – new handrails
  • $4 million – crash barrier (between cyclists and motor vehicles)
  • $2 million – pier fenders (new steel piles)
  • $2-3 million – concrete repairs to entire stretch of the bridge over water (not done in previous repairs)
  • $6 million – coating steel (sandblast old lead paint with containment, recoat steel)
  • $2-3 million – widening of north end of Burrard Bridge (back to 6 lanes, new pedestrian walkways on widened bridge along concrete span)
  • $8 million – intersection of Pacific & Burrard (eliminate pedestrian islands, reconfigure entire intersection)

To their credit, transportation staff provided excellent information on how the bridge repair budget would be allocated. It’s important to note that some of the repair work to the Burrard Bridge must be undertaken regardless of the other upgrades (such as the structural concrete repairs that were not completed in 2014).

The most contentious part of the proposed upgrades is to narrow the central span of the Burrard Bridge to 4 lanes of traffic (down from the current 5 lanes) in order to provide separated pedestrian and cyclist pathways (northbound). The proposal also includes widening the north end of the bridge back to 6 lanes of traffic, at significant expense. City staff were asking for public feedback on the possibility of closing the entire bridge to traffic in order to speed up construction work, or to find other ways to complete the work sooner (such as working during the evenings and on Sundays).

This is not the first time that upgrades to the Burrard Bridge were considered by the City of Vancouver. Councillor George Affleck tweeted a reminder that improvements for cyclists and pedestrians were proposed in 2005:

An option that was examined in 2005 was the widening of the entire bridge in order to provide separated routes for cyclists and pedestrians, and to keep 6 lanes of traffic at the same time. One of the reasons that previous proposal might not have gone forward was due to concerns about heritage retention. Widening the bridge was opposed by former Heritage Vancouver president Donald Luxton.

It is certainly possible to widen a bridge to make additional room for pedestrians and cyclists. The Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows crossing is currently being upgraded; the west side of the bridge has been recently widened:

Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrow Bridge

Are concerns about heritage sufficient to take any discussion on widening the main span of the Burrard Bridge off the table?

The current proposal put forward by City staff would widen the final 150 metre span of the bridge (before the intersection of Pacific and Burrard). While the existing concrete ‘heritage’ railing would be replaced, two new pedestrian walkways would extend beyond the current width of the bridge, as illustrated below:

Burrard Bridge widened

Survey form

Survey form

The rationale behind widening the street to 6 lanes of traffic at Pacific was based on the City’s traffic modelling calculations (high volume of motor vehicles turning right on the northbound lane). An open question is whether a future bottleneck will be instead created on the south end of the bridge.

If the best option is to have 4 lanes of traffic, 2 separated bike lanes and 2 pedestrian paths, then could the City save millions of dollars by not widening the north end of the Burrard Bridge? Would a short, single right turn lane be sufficient?

A second Open House is planned for June 16, 2015 at the Roundhouse Community Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews) from 7pm to 9pm. There’s also an online survey for public feedback. The Burrard Bridge item is likely to go to City Council before the summer recess.

Burrard Pacific intersection

The current proposal does not have a right hand turn from Burrard to Pacific from the southbound lane (this is the current configuration):
Burrard Pacific Intersection
The 4-year Capital Plan sets aside $40 million for new transportation projects. Part of the budget will be spent upgrades to the Burrard Bridge. Will the City be able to complete the remaining projects in the allotted budget?

Burrard Bridge Capital Plan


Survey form from Open House
Burrard Bridge and Pacific Street Intersection Upgrades (City of Vancouver webpage)
Changes to Burrard Bridge & Pacific Street intersection proposed. Open Houses June 6th and 16th (CityHallWatch, June 1, 2015)
City of Vancouver holds public consultation over proposed changes to Burrard Bridge (Global News, June 6, 2015)

3 thoughts on “Burrard Bridge upgrade details revealed at Open House. Second event planned for June 16th

  1. I have a problem with more bike lanes when bikers pay very little in taxes compared to others bike parking must have pay meters installed

    • While I understand your resentment about bikers paying relatively less than motorists for similar services I don’t believe paying bike meters are not the answer. I believe that a better way to generate revenue strictly for cycling infrastructure should be a cycling registry system where bikes must be registered, plated, and cyclists must pay an annual fee. Speaking as a cyclist myself who doesn’t own a car I like this idea because it means it can allocate more funds to other city transit projects while also making bicycle theft less profitable because if every bike in metro Vancouver has it’s make, model, and serial number registered then a would be bike thief would be forced to find buyers farther outside metro Vancouver where buyers are hard to come by (no pun intended).

  2. Personally I don’t think widening the bridge at the north would do much to ease flow of traffic or necessary to expand pedestrian traffic to the east side walk. If City Hall wasn’t controlled by ideologues they should consider doing what has been done with The Lions Gate and reduce the number of lanes to four and make them reversible lanes which can occupy up to three lanes in either direction depending on traffic times. Pedestrians get the east side walk, cyclists get a new separate lane, motorists get a more efficient means of crossing the bridge, and the city saves $2-3million (likely a low estimate) which can be spent elsewhere win-win-win-win. I argue widening the bridge to six lanes at the mouth does little good especially if you reduce it to four lanes midspan. I don’t have the numbers to back me up but I would also argue that Burrard isn’t nearly as traversed by vehicles like Cambie or Granville which are major routes in and out of the city where as Burrard dead ends at 16th.

    Not a big fan of the NPA but their idea of reconfiguring all major roads into reversible lanes I feel would really do a lot to alleviate the city’s traffic congestion.

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